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Swimming Backer Says “Day of the Sports Governing Body is Coming to an End”

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Hungary's Katinka Hosszu and Britain's Adam Peaty were among swimmers in attendance at the summit. Photo: ITG

By Michael Pavitt |

International Swimming League (ISL) financer Konstantin Grigorishin has suggested the “day of the sports governing body is coming to an end” and has called for swimmers to accept nothing less than 50 percent of revenues from competition organizers.

The Ukrainian made the assertion at a two-day summit held by the ISL at the home of Chelsea Football Club in London, which was billed as an opportunity for more than 30 of the world’s best swimmers to hear from experts in law, labor relations and business.

Discussions, it is claimed, explained the steps athletes can take to turn swimming into a “professional sport with regular wages.”

Increased rights and ensuring they receive a “fair share of revenues generated by governing bodies at world and Olympic level” was also discussed.

Athletes are claimed to be contemplating the establishment of a Professional Swimmers Association, which would aid efforts to withdraw from competitions in which they do not believe they are receiving a fair share of revenues.

It will also allow them to consult with other athletes over issues including image rights and race formats, it is claimed.

The summit was held amid increasing tensions between the ISL and the International Swimming Federation (FINA) in recent weeks, after the latter refused to sanction an ISL competition in Italy.

The competition, which the ISL claim was due to be a test event for their professional team format, would have featured eight international clubs each made up of 12 male and 12 female swimmers.

They were due to compete over two days of races across all swimming events in a short course pool, where the four teams which gained the most points would progress to a grand final over the following two days.

It was cancelled when FINA warned any swimmers who took part would face bans.

FINA defended their decision to refuse to sanction the event, asserting the request to hold it was made at “short notice.”

The ISL launched a class action lawsuit against FINA for allegedly violating anti-trust laws, with a second filed by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú and American swimmers Michael Andrew and Tom Shields.

The ISL claim the organization do not want to be in conflict with the governing body, with Grigorishin asserting it was “not their intention to destroy FINA.”

He suggested that FINA could co-exist with the ISL as a regulator of the sport, as he claimed the time of sports governing bodies was coming to an end.

“My personal opinion is that there was a time when governing bodies were very useful for sport and the development of sport,” he told insidethegames.

“Now if you are talking about professional sport, not all sport, it is professional showbiz.

“Governing bodies cannot take care of professional business entities.

“We have to split the professional show [with] the other sport.

“In commercial successful sports, governing bodies do not play such a big role.

“They can take care of swimming education on how to swim and organize some amateur competitions.

“Secondly, they can have the purpose of regulation, somebody has to establish some technical rules, but not have a monopoly in sport.

“Somebody has to regulate.”

FINA’s accounts have shown that the governing body currently distributes 12.5 percent of annual revenues to athletes in the form of prize money.

The ISL stated this does not include pension rights and insurance, with the organization claiming they had pledged to share 50 percent of the revenues generated by their series with athletes.

They claim athletes should accept “nothing less” from any competition organiser, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Grigorishin suggested the IOC could allocate a percentage of revenue from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to athletes and clubs.

The head of the Energy Standard Group, who was previously accused by Russian authorities of tax evasion and last year saw $300 million of his assets frozen by the High Court in England over a dispute with two former business partners, admitted he was not currently aware of the way the IOC currently distributes its revenues.

The IOC insists it distributes 90 percent of its income, which they state supports Olympic host cities and their solidarity programs, as well as supporting the development of sports and athletes.

IOC President Thomas Bach last month called upon National Olympic Committees to work with their Governments to defend the “European sport model” from the perceived threat of commercial enterprises.

Grigorishin, however, suggested negotiations could take place to ensure athletes have a “fair share” of revenues.

“I am not an auditor of the IOC so do not know how they distribute this 90 percent,” he said.

“My opinion is that you have to be fair with athletes.

“The IOC is an organizer of some great events like the Olympic Games, which is very commercially successful, but can it exist without athletes?

“You can spend billions in Sochi or Tokyo for sporting facilities, but if the athletes were not there it would not be a success.

“It means part of a value of the event belongs to the athletes, you have to share this.

“How much, 50 percent, 20 percent or 90 percent?

“It is a question of negotiations.”

The ISL claim they will launch a regular season next year with 12 clubs featuring, split evenly between Europe and the United States.

Around 360 swimmers would feature in the teams, with the top four clubs from Europe and the US advancing to a semi-final.

The semi-final and final is expected to take place in Las Vegas at the end of 2019.

The ISL have claimed FINA’s newly formed Champions Series, which was announced last week, was a “shameless cut and paste” of their ideas.

FINA’s event will see swimmers grouped together on a continental or sponsorship basis, with each team comprising of 12 men and 12 women as the ISL had also planned.

The Series will be “an exceptional showcase for the sport and its top swimmers, that combines pure competition, together with innovative sports presentation and entertainment”, FINA claimed.

Only invited athletes will be able to compete and only finals will be held.

Swimmers will receive both “unprecedented” prize money and appearance fees to take part, FINA promised, with a total prize purse of nearly $4 million offered.

insidethegames has contacted FINA and the IOC for a response.

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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